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Financial Literacy in Public Libraries: A Guide for Building Collections: Introduction

This guide was created by the ALA Office of Research & Evaluation, and funded by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. [New books added 6/21/24]

Defintion of Personal Finance Capability

“Financial capability is the capacity, based on knowledge, skills, and access, to manage financial resources prudently and effectively. Efforts to improve financial capability, which should be based on evidence of effectiveness, empower individuals to make informed choices, plan and set goals, avoid pitfalls, know where to seek help, and take other actions to better their present and long-term financial well-being”[1]

[1] Executive order--establishing the president’s advisory council on financial capability for Young Americans. (2013, June 25). Retrieved August 8, 2016, from


The following personal finance subject areas are included in this guide:

Call Numbers

Dewey Decimal Classification ranges: 332.024 – 640.73

Library of Congress Call Range: HG -TX

Disclaimer for Librarians

The following is guidance for librarians to follow when helping patrons with personal finance matters, as outlined in the webinar, Beyond the Basics of Personal Finance: Helping Library Patrons Help Themselves, presented by the American Library Association and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

  • Don’t log into patrons’ financial accounts.
  • Don’t review patrons’ financial documents.
  • Don’t make phone calls on patrons’ behalf.
  • Do help patrons find and use resources.
  • Do explain why you are following these guidelines.


SPOTLIGHT: ALA Resources for Financial Literacy

Thinking Money for Kids

We all need to master the knowledge and skills to make smart financial choices and prepare for whatever the future brings. Thinking Money for Kids, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, strives to teach children and their parents, caregivers and educators about financial topics — like saving, spending, sharing and budgeting — in a way that is both meaningful and fun. 

An online interactive exhibit with activities to teach children about earning, budgeting, and spending money is available here.

In late 2023, 300 public libraries were selected through a competitive grant to receive a Thinking Money for Kids Program Kit, a collection of expertly vetted resources to help libraries offer financial education for children ages 3 to 12, both in the library and in children’s homes. Resources from the grant will be available online in late 2024. 

Thinking Money for All Kids

ALA, in collaboration with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation), has released Thinking Money for All Kids: Diverse and Inclusive Reads to Teach Young People about Money, a free resource for library workers. Available now as a PDF download, the guide highlights 40 recommended titles selected by a team of librarian advisors. The guide was developed to eschew stereotypes and embrace diversity in telling stories and sharing skills related to personal finance and financial capability for children. 

The guide also includes sections on how to build a diverse financial education collection, program ideas, resources, and tips. 

Programming Librarian Blog

LibGuide Selection Criteria

This guide lists materials and resources about personal finance suitable for public libraries. The guide helps to address gaps within the personal finance collections of public libraries and, ultimately, enhance financial capability in the community.

The guide lists resources that are pertinent to personal finance in the United States. In addition, this guide identifies materials and resources appropriate for children, teen, adult, and senior audiences. Materials are limited to those available in English and with publication dates ranging from 2011 to present. The guide gives preference to government and nonprofit sources of information. The following formats are included: books, eBooks, audio books, databases, and websites. Books were selected based on WorldCat holdings, reviews, authority and date of publication, and cost. eBooks and audio books were selected on the same criteria as print books. Websites were picked based on content clarity for consumers. Magazines were selected based on detail to subject area, and authority. Databases were selected based on previous usage and knowledge.

Highly technical materials, scholarly studies, self-published materials and materials focusing on entrepreneurship and small business development are not covered by this guide. 

Statement of Responsibility

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association sponsor Smart investing@your library®. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation empowers underserved Americans with the knowledge, skills, and tools to make sound financial decisions throughout life. The American Library Association seeks to provide information services and ensure access to information for all people.

LibGuide Editor, Financial Literacy in Public Libraries

Thank You

We would like to show our gratitude to the staff at ALA Library for sharing their pearls of wisdom with us during the course of this research, and to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for their insights and opportunity to visit. We are also immensely grateful to Lisa Liu from the Santa Clara County Public Library District for her comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Any errors are our own.

This guide was supported by funding from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.